by Roger McCay
8 December 2019
Sermon Passage: Philippians 4:1-7
Link to Audio Version
Life is tough, and it is full of strife. In a way, every day can be another day of war for us—certainly on the spiritual plane. And, because we are sinners, it is a rare thing to live in perfect harmony with everybody. Sometimes, our biggest troubles come from those we love the most: our family, even our church family. The strife of life can leave us in a perpetual state of worry and anxiety; anger … Yet, Christians are not called to lives of anxiety, we are called to lives of peace, even when we are in the midst of war.
Just prior to our passage today, the Apostle Paul, in Phil. 3:20, stated, “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” With this statement, Paul adjusts our focus. Rather than only focusing on earthly, temporal things, Christians must keep the larger picture in mind, by focusing on what really matters. That is, whatever it is we are dealing with in the world, as elect sojourners (1 Pt. 1:1) we are always a people who are united in Christ and citizens of the Kingdom of God. Jesus reigns now over all things. He is King and Lord. And, at any moment, he may return bringing the consummation of the Kingdom.
With this reality in focus, Paul wrote in our passage today concerning the peace that Christians should have, because of this reality. He explains how we come to this peace—a peace that “surpasses all understanding.”
In vv. 2-3 Paul calls for a particular peace and unity among the body of the church in Philippi. He instructed Euodia and Syntych, two women in the church, to settle a disagreement they were having. These women were clearly believers that Paul knew well, and had even “labored side by side with [him] in the Gospel.” To ensure that peace was restored, Paul called a particular individual to be a mediator in the situation. As Paul was in prison in Rome, and he knew about the disagreement, it must have been quite a doozy. Therefore, it is very likely they were causing a great deal of strife, and, perhaps, division in the local body because of their argument. Such a situation was one that had to be dealt with. And, perhaps, the church leadership was at a loss as to what to do about it. So, Paul sent authoritative instructions towards that end. The unity, sanctity, and peace of the church was just too important for him to remain mum.
Hence, when we come to v. 4, the immediate context is Paul’s urging for two women to settle a quarrel they were having: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”
Now, why, do you think Paul make such a statement in that context? Well, he is again readjusting focus. With the right perspective – a Kingdom perspective, with Jesus Christ (our Lord and Savior as the ruling King) and eternity before us, we cannot help but rejoice in the Lord.
But what does it mean to rejoice, much less rejoice always? It is important to understand that v. 4 is not a suggestion. This statement is an imperative command. We are commanded to rejoice always.
Now, I know that may seem a pretty tough demand, even unreasonable, considering some of the things that life sends our way, for example, the loss of a loved one. However, rejoicing always is, actually, a reasonable concept, doable, even spontaneous, when we realize deep down where our rejoicing is rooted. Rejoicing is not rooted in our happiness. Rather, rejoicing is rooted in the Lord. Indeed, rejoicing actually comes from the Lord. Hence, “Rejoice in the Lord.”
When we rejoice, it comes out of our joy, which is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). This fruit of the Spirit is possessed by all true Christians, everywhere, for we have the Spirit of God indwelling us (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Tim. 1:14). Therefore, joy is one of our attributes, a virtue of a Christian. It is the result of our being in the Lord and fellowshipping with him. It flows out of our assurance in Christ that he is King and Lord, ruling over all things, and working all things to the good of his people (Rom. 8:28). It flows out of our confidence that he loves us whatever may come (Rom. 8:39). It flows out of our secure living hope and eternal inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5). It flows out of knowledge that our trials have a purpose in God’s plan—to test the genuineness of our faith and to refine us with fire (1 Peter 1:6-7). And, it flows out of our love for him, and hope in him (1 Peter 1:8). The Lord has us in his hand; we are secure in him; our inheritance awaits us. Nothing can change this. Our joy lies in our Lord – and he is unshakeable!